Once you retire, many of your normal living expenses will stay the same. Some will increase or decrease, but for the most part, the types of costs you face in retirement will be similar to the ones you have now.
But when it comes to healthcare, you might see some changes. Medicare is a confusing topic, and if you don't fully understand how it works, you're not alone -- 72% of Americans say they wish they better understood Medicare, a survey from Nationwide found.
One commonly misunderstood aspect of Medicare coverage is that it isn't completely free; you're still responsible for all premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. And outside of those costs, you may also still face out-of-pocket expenses because not all healthcare needs are covered. With Original Medicare, you'll be enrolled in Part A and Part B coverage. Part A covers hospital visits, while Part B covers doctor visits and lab diagnostics.
Part A and Part B will cover most of your major healthcare needs. However, one type of care that Original Medicare doesn't cover is routine care, such as dental coverage -- and it's costing retirees.
The cost of dental care in retirement
Among retirees who are enrolled in Medicare, 65% don't have any dental coverage, according to a report from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Furthermore, of those who have gone to the dentist, the average retiree pays around $922 per year in out-of-pocket expenses. It's not uncommon to spend more than that, though, and one in five retirees pays more than $1,000 per year on dental care alone.
When you're living on a fixed income in retirement, every dollar counts -- and dental care isn't cheap. Even routine cleanings can cost a couple hundred dollars or more per year without insurance, and if you skip going to the dentist thinking you're saving money, you risk developing problems that could cost hundreds of even thousands of dollars to fix down the road.
If you want to limit your out-of-pocket expenses, you have a few options. One of those options is to enroll in a Medicare Advantage plan instead of Original Medicare. Advantage plans offer all the same care as Original Medicare, but they typically offer coverage for routine care and prescription drugs, too. These plans are offered through third-party insurance companies, so costs vary based on your location and the type of coverage you're looking for. But because you get more coverage with an Advantage plan, you can usually expect to pay higher premiums as well.
Another option is to simply enroll in a separate dental insurance plan. Many major insurance companies offer separate dental plans, but be sure to read the fine print before you sign up for anything, because each plan is different. For example, some will cover only basic procedures, such as cleanings and fillings, while others will cover major services but only after you've been enrolled for a certain time. So while there many be plenty of inexpensive options, double-check that you're getting the amount of coverage you need -- otherwise you may still face steep out-of-pocket costs.
A third option is to pay out of pocket for your dental expenses, but enroll in a discount plan to limit your costs. With a discount plan, you won't have any premiums or deductibles, but you will pay a monthly or yearly fee to enroll in the program and earn discounts on dental procedures.
Which dental care option is right for you?
The type of plan that best fits your needs largely depends on how much care you expect to need. While you can't predict exactly what types of health issues will arise for you in the future, you can get a general idea based on your current health.
For example, if you currently have issues with your teeth and gums and have to visit the dentist regularly, you'll likely need more care in retirement than those who can get by with just a cleaning or two per year. The more care you need, the better an idea it is to get more expansive coverage so you won't end up paying thousands of dollars per year out of pocket.
No matter which option you choose, do your research to make sure you're choosing the most cost-effective route. You've worked hard to prepare for retirement, so it pays to do everything you can to ensure your money lasts as long as possible. The more knowledge you have about the expenses you can expect to face, the better off you'll be in retirement.